Grades 7 to 12 students at Calgary public and Catholic schools will continue online learning for two more weeks, as COVID-19 cases continue to increase.
Online schooling was expected to continue for those grades until May 3, but Alberta’s education minister confirmed in a statement Wednesday that at-home learning will be extended for two additional weeks.
“We know in-classroom learning has significant benefits, and that this is difficult news to many students, parents and teachers. However, due to continued operational concerns, this extension is necessary to ensure learning can continue,” Adriana LaGrange said.
“The safety of students and staff will continue to be the government’s top priority as we finish the school year.”
As of Tuesday, 29 per cent of the province’s schools were on alert or had outbreaks, with a total of 4,271 cases. In-school transmission is believed to have occurred in 577 schools.
Alberta is nearing its highest-ever total of active cases, with 20,938 active cases as of Wednesday. More cases among young people have been reported during this third wave of the pandemic than in previous waves.
The Calgary Board of Education said in a statement emailed to staff that thousands of students and staff are still isolating.
“This was a difficult decision that was made only after reviewing all of the factors that are contributing to significant disruptions in learning,” superintendent Christopher Usih wrote.
Edmonton students in Grades 7 to 12 and Fort McMurray students in K to 12 have also moved online.
Medeana Moussa with Support our Students said she sees school boards as shouldering a burden that should have been borne by the provincial government.
“It’s really a shame that students are paying the price for the inaction of government,” she said.
“It’s very reactionary and I think that causes anxiety for everybody.”
Moussa said despite this being the third wave of the pandemic, policies haven’t adapted to better keep school staff and students safe or provide further resources.
“There’s no best practices, there’s not even an effort to make it any better for them … it’s pretty shameful.”
The province had initially said the request to move online was based on four criteria:
- A chronic substitute teacher shortage.
- A significant number of students and staff in quarantine or isolation.
- Recent requests from the boards for short-term shifts for a number of their schools.
- Substantial COVID-19 cases in the community.
Due to the extension, Calgary Transit is allowing students to continue to use April bus passes through the month of May.